2007 - United States - 95 minutes
Director and Writer - Brad Gann
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 6.8/10 - Link to IMDb
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars

This independent film is an excellently done drama covering just a few critical months in which all the members of a South Boston Irish family undergo significant changes.

Desmond McKay is the brutish, out-of-work husband and father who has become a disappointment to himself, his wife, and his children. Margaret, his wife, is a woman bound to tradition who has become overly self-righteous in her views toward her family and her husband. Older brother, Terry is a brutish teenager well on his way to prison. Kathleen is the daughter and sister who is trying to cope with all the family conflict but who has her own problems as she is pregnant by a boyfriend not interested in his unborn child. Cole, the younger brother, is the innocent victim of all of this turmoil who is a promising baseball player at the local Catholic School and - in the hopes of his mother and priests - a future priest.

Cole is delivered a blow when he finds that he must be withdrawn from his private school to attend public school in order that his parents pay for their daughter's entry into a Catholic home for unwed mothers.

All of this appears to be extremely cliché, but considered in light of real life, this cliché is an experience being experienced over and over daily by uncountable families world-wide, and to each and every family member, their own personal struggle is far from cliché.

What makes this all work is a superior film containing superior acting and superior writing and direction.

The thing I really like about DVD's - especially those of independent films - is the insight, through the extra features, as to their making and the "blood and tears" that bring them to fruition. In the extra features we learn that Brad Gann wrote his screenplay based upon the life of his friend Finn Curtin who plays the baseball coach in the film. This gives us an insight to the actual events that lead to this fictional portrayal of a boy in crisis.

Added to the script and excellent direction, the wonderful acting makes this film a must-see.

Brendan Gleeson is great as the father reaching the end of his life who has not been the perfect man but has retained his sense of humor and irony to the very last.

Melissa Leo is unforgettable as the mother trying desperately to maintain the dignity of her family who finally realizes that heart wins over dignity.

Emily VanCamp is both heartbreaking and heartwarming as the daughter and sister who has sacrificed her own self-image in the quest for family unity only to find it and become a pillar of strength after she becomes pregnant.

Tom Guiry is superior as the object of hate and compassion as the older brother who has become the "bad son."

And finally, Michael Angarano steals your heart and soul as the son trying to love all of his family no matter each of their weaknesses.

Unless you grew up on the perfect family, you should be able to find identity with one or more of these characters. This is a great family story surely worthwhile of viewing.

Neil Turner
January 14, 2008

Black Irish